History of Text-Based Art

•April 12, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Ok, you got me, I’ve been working on a new site:


It’s taking up most of my arty time. I’m on the verge of the 1960′s when it all went freako! But it’s so massively huge that I’m being a bit uncharacteristically slow about it, in fact reading a bit of critical theory for the first time in my uninformed life just so I get it right.

I’m also working a series of posters that will be sent to a printer, I just don’t have the paint capabilities to manage it. I’ll post a few when they’re done.

In the meantime, have a look at the new site at let me know what you think, hey? Also, here’s a pic of the Abstract Expressionist master critic Clement Greenberg looking at a piece by Kenneth Noland, who I think of as transitional toward the foundation of Conceptual Art as he’s one of many moving distinctly away from Ab-Ex into a minimalist landscape. Thus, Greenberg watching his little gold factory slowly changing shape. It’s an interesting thing to consider, you know, in context.

Clement Greenberg looking at Kenneth Noland

Hello Again

•February 1, 2014 • 1 Comment


ok, i admit, i’ve been gone on something of a sabbatical/fuckup/relationship bender. sabbatical in that i needed a break from the studio, fuckup in that i stayed gone way too long and relationship in that, well, i was in one, now i ain’t. you know how that goes.

so lately i’ve been in shop working on a new version of marlboro, white on white, a commission for an old-school photographer named george. trade: cash + old photos of the french countryside for marlboro. fair enough. one thing tho is that i no longer have a wash table. i ditched that some while ago as it was MASSIVE and HEAVY and a nightmare to work with as it slowly disintegrated. so i brushed all the paint onto weighty paperstock, then scrubbed the hell out of it in my studio. saved the stencil and did an improved marlboro. can’t complain. in fact, here’s a few pics:

Marlboro double wash

Scrubbing out the stencil, and this just to give you a relative sense of size. Mark helped me bang this out. At some point the stencil is just too damn large for one person to handle. Try pulling crisp text on a 7′ stencil – can’t be done! Seriously, try it.

Marlboro corner pic

A corner shot to show you how nicely crisp it all came out. If you want other shots of Marlboro, feel free to scroll thru TheDevil. Marlboro is a story about me in my early 20′s hitchhiking a ride with a trucker from El Paso, TX to Dallas, with my busted motorcycle in tied down in his rig. It’s really his story, the one he told me about his ex-wife’s dating the first Marlboro man and subsequent attempt to hire another after the original went belly-up with cocaine. It’s foul, demented, involves a New York ad agency and certain homosexuality among even more certain hetrosexual imagry, and it’s a great story.

Otherwise, hmn, well there’s lots of otherwise. I do hope to spend more time in the studio and develop what comes next. In fact like so many things I see the finished work in my head but have only rudimentary skills to produce it. Well fuck it, didn’t stop Pollock. He couldn’t draw to save his life but somehow did ok.

What Comes Next, Yep

•July 21, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Ok, y’all, I’ve been gone awhile, I know I know, but why? Well hmn, I’ve been broke, working to not be broke, moved into a new studio and have no idea, art-wise, or life-wise, what the hell I’m doing. That said, I’m putting down text for the rest of the year, I’m worn out with the process, and looking to actually enjoy my time in shop. So here’s what I did with the older pieces:

Stacked Paintings

Yep, stacked em’. Fuck em’ too. So I’ve been working on the idea of texture, or something:

Ptg Detail

Here I took a painting w/ built-in gesso texturd w/ the phrase THANKS BASTARDS stenciled onto it. Orange stencil. Never did anything w/ it. So today I took a rag, squeezed paint onto it and started rubbing it into the painting much like I rubbed paint into my older textured stencil pieces. Then I rubbed another color into that. I’ve decided that since I don’t know how to paint, why use brushes? EVERYONE uses brushes and so I’m going to find a painterly voice that doesn’t require them. Otherwise, hmn, think about the competition, eh? Plus, again fuck it, I’m a nut for texture and in this case steel wool. Plus a few other tricks. It’s physical, my arms like it. Long way to go tho, granted.

That said, I haven’t spent 2 days in a row in the studio since winter. Time + Life =  HA HA HA SORRY NOT JUST YET. But what I have been doing is trying to learn to play guitar at home. Here’s my friends:


Power sucks in the attic, can’t plug in my amp w/out feedback, so NO to the hollowbody and old $50 Kingston bass, and YES to the awesome Ibanez dreadnought.

Now then, beside painting, or not painting, or something, I’ve been snapping some pics and have decided to do a series of Portland night pics, or dusk. Here’s a nice wall next to the studio. Honestly, my little neighborhood is replete with incredible light and shapes and so I’m going after it this summer.

Wall Sticker

Yellow Wall

Big Yellow Wall

Lovely 1 2 3, hey?

Also, looking straight up from the wall:

Red Bridge

I dig that it’s out of focus, big diffuse shapes, quite lovely. This is the kind of thing I’ll be looking for. Scroll thru earlier posts; you’ll see a few good examples.

In any event, I haven’t abandoned The Devil, just couldn’t get to it with any real purpose. See y’all a bit more regularly, I hope.

Open Studio = ACES

•June 9, 2013 • Leave a Comment

The open studio event was a smash and thanks to everyone who visited! As one of the primary organizers my job was to help fill the building (27 open studios over 4 floors) and the other was to have a good event in my own space. Both happened, even sold some work, so alright for that. We’ll be having our next open studio in November that’ll coincide with Towne Storage’s open studio event, which draws some thousands of people. Should be awesome.

All that said, a few things:

1. I’m moving into a new studio. Not working f/t, and bascially refusing to do so, means I don’t have $ to pay for my current digs. But no problem. I’m moving down the hall into a smaller space, but happy to do so. Half my last unit was storage anyway, which leads to this:

2. If you’re interested in my of my paintings, let me know and we’ll work a deal. Happy also to trade for guitar lessons, a decent electric guitar, a commercial-grade espresso machine or a medium-sized motorcycle that I can work on. The point being

3. It’s time to divest of my work and/or put it in storage. I’m only bringing one finished painting to the new studio (Blue Lorca) and a few unfinished ones. Everything else, hmn, I need to clear my brain in order to craft some new work. I don’t anticipate painting so much as working with Illustrator for awhile. I bought a killer photo-quality printer a few months ago and it’s time to see what it can do.

In fact, if you’re so inclined, go to my pro site: davidnielsenart.com and if you see something that strikes you, let me know.

Do watcha do.

OPEN STUDIO – June 7th 5-9pm

•May 20, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Hey folks, Open Studio on Friday, June 7th from 5-9pm! In fact, here’s the postcard:

PSC Post Card

We expect 20+ open studios, great wine (I’m supplying) and a pretty raucous crowd, thankfully. I’m also literally putting all my work up for sale, the walls, it’ll be like walking into a book, they’ll be covered. I can’t seem to find a gallery for my pretty little esoteric work, so it’ll be gallery for a day, well, 4 hours at least.

In the meantime, for those of you that haven’t checked it out in awhile, my official artist website: davidnielsenart.com

Ok, out. See you there!

Ah, and in case you don’t recognize me, I snapped this one the other day. Artsy. And a document of age 47. Yep.


The Art of Nuclear War

•April 12, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Well folks, turns out North Korea has more advanced nuclear weaponry than we gave them credit for. Anyone surprised? That said, who gave them this technology? Who sold them the parts? Which if any American companies or universities assisted in this? In my world anyone who imported, exported or assisted in the dissemination of nuclear technology or products would immediately forfeit their lives. I have not one whit of sympathy in this regard.

That said, below is the complete Le Morte de Gaia, some of which is posted on my site davidnielsenart.com. I can’t get a gallery to show them, fuck it, so here you go!

Ah, and if you want the complete text, hmn, well let me know. They’re a triptych of triptychs with the first line in the first set beginning with NO and the first in the second begins with I WISH and the last with THANK YOU. I don’t have these in any particular order, but you get the point. I made them all to appear burnt, scorched, antiquated, like something lost, buried, forgotten.




NO #1

Le Morte Series #3

And this, ah ha, not quite a little joke, but it does make me happy:

War is Over John Lennon Yoko Ono

Starting Over, er, Oh-vah

•April 2, 2013 • 1 Comment

Today I take down the show in La Merde. My main concern, show-wise, is where to store the unsold (read: ALL) work. Answer: here. On my couch. I don’t have a lot of room in the studio so maybe here where it’s warm. It was a good show, the work was totally pro and well-crafted. Got no complaints art-wise.

Now then, new work. Here’s a pic which we’ll break down in a sec:

Art on table

What we’ve got going here are a few larger text bits, fewer words, bigger letters, smaller communication, louder method. I’ve been a MASSIVE critic of the school of ‘large and short’ in text-based work (and still am) where all someone has to do is bang out a half-wit slogan such as “EAT YOUR VEGETABLES” then hire someone to paste it to a Zeppelin and bing-bang whambo slam bam you’ve got art! Expensive art, too. Here, hmn, what I’m trying to do (beside move away from the denser storytelling I’ve been up to this past year) is learn to take a smaller phrase and imbue it with some kind of abstract emotional/intellectual content via the handling of materials. In short, trying to learn how to paint, something I really don’t know how to do. It’s a kind of half-ass birthday present to myself, a challenge that’s going to make me cry, I don’t see how it doesn’t.

That said, hmn, here’s a few more pics of crap in process before I tell you why 1. they suck and 2. what to do about it:

Anita Loos original

To this:

Anita Loos

I like words but I have no idea what to do with them. Check this mess out:

Be A Man 2

Be A Man 1 Be A Man

Slow moving train of text and abstract and what the hell is happening? It feels like a college freshman trying to be deep and bang senior prospectives on weekend campus visits. Not that I know anything about that. The Be A Man line is taken from my fave rock and roll line of all time, “How can he be a man if he doesn’t smoke the same cigarette as me?” from Satisfaction by the Stones. Quintessential man, rock thru and thru. The other line I like, well another line I like is “It’s such a gamble when you get a face” from Blank Generation by Richard Hell. I could do a whole show based on that song, or line.

Then there’s this fragment:

Rainbow 1 Rainbow

Ok, what you’re seeing is my interest in covering over work but letting the text stand out. Remind anyone of the Le Morte de Gaia series where text was both legible and obscured? True this is what grabs me, making the straight-forward difficult, adding complexity thru disintegration and forcing the viewer to work for what they get. The more recent heavily layered pieces (Richter and Checkers) work the same way:

2 Richter Finished

One thing that’s also thematic thru my work is use of limited palette. I don’t get color complexity, even my clothing today is black and blue w/ white laces. In fact I feel most comfortable working in black and white so while laying out Rainbow in color (Neil Young, by the way), I can’t get past the color, I can’t fathom what to do next because each color element seems to stand on its own, there’s no cohesion with each section fighting to remain viable. It’s like a schoolyard of children screaming for attention. Feh, who needs that? So I’m going back to black and white, and shades of black and white.

Which is where my friend Mark Gatewood comes in. Hold on, check out his website: markgatewood.com. I asked Mark for help this morning. I KNOW what I want to do, I know how I want to work with the larger text moving forward but I needed an art lesson. So Mark gave me New Acrylics / Essential Workbook by Rheni Tauchid. Looks damn fine with techniques to die for. Technique, I have no technique so this’ll be a tome worth seriously reading over the next few days. Honestly, look at the paintings on pages 133, 136, 141 and 147. Acrylic! So yeah, I’ve got a lot to learn.

There you have it.

If you’ve got acrylic teaching thoughts, think Layers and Semi-transparent Obscuring, drop me a line. Otherwise go do something that makes you happy. Ok?


•March 31, 2013 • 2 Comments

So ok, show went up, got a great review in the Willamette Weekly, contacted a gallerist to come check it out and the sum total of ZERO happened. Noone who saw the work contacted me, gallerist never replied, review was read and a few friends said Nice Job! but otherwise it was like spitting into the ocean.

Pretty standard, that, I’m told.

So it gets me to pondering my work and direction. One thing I’ve been considering of late is content, as in ‘Would I hang that in my apt?’ Also as in ‘If I wouldn’t, and I make it, why should I expect someone else to?’ Which leads to ‘If they’re not going to hang it, chances are they’re also not going to buy it.’

Pretty standard, that, the damn formula: No hang = No buy. And what’s the artist’s goal? To sell your $%@& work in order to keep going. It’s been the constant formula for thousands of years. And now I’m staring at it, kicking the tires, and it feels right.

So ok again, let’s look at what I’ve produced: A) A triptych of tritychs about nuclear war. Z) A ton of autobiographical text pieces. You’ll either hang my point of view about what happens once the first bomb drops or you’ll read about something stupid I did in college. Hardly the oomph to make you want to rip out your checkbook and start scribbling, eh? On the other hand, subject matter aside, I have over the past few diligent years, and they have been diligent, learned something of a craft. I have mastered the stencil technique, the most recent pieces are all basically perfect, so that’s a nice thing. And in coming to understand one’s craft one can theoretically look more critically at one’s work and understand it better in the moment. Thus, this moment.


I think I’m done with stories for 2013. I don’t see the point, and I’m bored to death with the current full-panel stencil technique. I can do it, but to what end? What’s getting my attention lately are the multi-layered pieces (Richter) which remind me of Glenn Ligon, and the full-color bits I’m working on now in shop, like What That Hat below. There’s a verbal/visual language to these new pieces that work in an entirely different fashion than straight text stories, and even far different from Le Morte de Gaia where I covered over the work to the point of obliteration. A lot of the new work if not all of it will be covered over, but in the service of something abstract, meant to come out later, nevermind the very very very small quantities of words, singular phrases and size of text.

In short, I’ve begun to create new work with a new emphasis, a new language for me, and it’s actually pretty exciting. The old process didn’t involve artistic creativity so much as it involved the learning of craft. The new bits are interesting in that I don’t go into the shop with text in mind, I just pull out a panel and start working. It’s all freedom, as Jimi said, before he proved it.

In any event, adios to one and hello to another. In any event again, spitting into the ocean. Even this blog is a speck in the coldest speck of outer space. ZERO response to 2 years of work. It’s something to consider, it really is.

Show Review @ La Merde!

•March 21, 2013 • Leave a Comment


PDX art critic Richard Speer gives it an AOK. Excellent! Plus there’s a nice pic of Lorca in the print edition. Interesting too in that the current WW’s feature story is about a local gazillionaire pumping $ into saving the Portland fine art scene. I feel honored to be in the same issue.

No need to comment on this site, but if you check out the show, up for another 2 weeks, let me know and give me yer thots. Gracias!


•March 6, 2013 • 1 Comment

Ok y’all, remmber: NEW SHOW AT LA MERDE through 4/2. Check it out!

4 in La Merde

Also, new werk. I built a massive 6 x 7′ panel. Too heavy to move, too large for the sake of material costs, but I had to do it. Then I tried to give it away to my friend Dory who refused it. Which was the genesis of my saying Fuck It, laying it on the floor and getting to work. Traditionally my work is just a manifestation of what I envision while sitting at a computer banging out a story or two. That’s the fun part, the story, whereas the crafting of the work is mostly anxiety because it HAS to be right, it HAS to be exact. Here, hmn, here’s new piece called Ape:

Ape in hall

Like I said, it’s large and so all you get is a pic of it thru my door into the hall. What you see however is LARGE text but very little of it. My work has also traditionally been autobiographical, but for the past half year or so I’ve been feeling like that’s a trap, a small box that I’m screwed if I can’t get out of. I’ve had an interesting life, but so have you and so what? I’ve also been studying text art/ists for the last few years, I can tell you pretty much the entire history going back to Simmias of Rhodes, 3rd century B.C., and I suppose the study has been fermenting in my brain a bit, or I’m fermented, but a new direction is underway.

Of which, here’s another piece called What That Hat:

What Hat

Beside the fact that you’re only seeing underpainting, initial layers before the text changes, you’re also seeing a multitude of new things:

1. Large text
2. Few words
3. Lack of biography
4. A bit of wordplay
5. Beginning of an observational, declarative mode
6. Immediate, non-revised use of text
7. Housepaint acrylics
8. Abstract style

That’s a fair bit to bite off all at once, hey? So not only am I delving into new territory (the content part is a pure freaking joy!), but I’m crashing hard into the world of abstract, which gets us back again to Dory who thinks I shouldn’t use paint to begin with. I actually agree with her. I suck at painting. I have no idea how to paint, I don’t inherently understand color and I’m just as likely to dip the entire painting in a bucket of thinner or set it on fire as I am to pick up a brush and swipe it. That said, I’m also studying my abstract-expressionists (de Kooning in particular) as well as our fave contemporaries like Wool, Ligon, Holzer, Basquiat, Ruscha and dorks like Mel Blochner whose work bores the shit out of me.

In fact, here’s a few examples of each of these geniuses, and also Blocher just because:


christopher woolChristopher Wool.

Jenny HolzerJenny Holzer.

ed ruschaEd Ruscha.

richard prince

Richard Prince.

Mel Blochner

Mel Blochner. This is actually one his his more dynamic pieces.

Awrite, off to go hang art at La Merde. Thots, comments, offers of free studio space in foreign cities all welcome!


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